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"I'll take a loss like that."

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I think I agree with John Salmons, as quoted by Sam Amick in the Sacramento Bee. Twenty-four hours after a shellacking by Dallas, without your best defender and the vocal leader of the team, against the best team of the 2000s, on the road.

It's a really tough loss - and you bet Eric Musselman and the team feels it, too. Salmons is just a real even-keeled cat. He had a great game, despite the Sacramento brand heartbreak at the end. He knows the world isn't over. He knows this team is better than its record.

And it is. 8-7 isn't all that pretty, but the schedule has been rough. The middle of the season - Christmas to St. Patrick's Day - is mostly filled with Eastern teams and a smattering of West contenders. The top of the schedule - the Kings have faced San Antonio twice, Utah, Detroit, Dallas, the Clippers, and Miami and Phoenix are around the corner - and the grueling finish - something like 11 of the last 18 against teams expected to be in the playoffs - are horrible bookends for a soft middle. By March, this team could look like world-beaters.

That's why staying cool, not blowing up, not demanding changes in this early run is key. Which is why Ron Artest should stop upsetting the apple cart by worming his way into a debate over who should get the most shots.

A win last night would've put Artest squarely in his place. Hopefully, the photo finish will accomplish the same goal.